The Bottom Line
Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
The AORUS brand has grown tremendously over the last few years. It now encompasses many motherboards that GIGABYTE produces with the Ultra Durable platform now handling "creator" and Professional platforms. This positions GIGABYTE to better take on competing vendors platforms like ROG from ASUS in the gaming market.
On the bench today, we have the AORUS Z490I Ultra, a Socket 1200 solution from GIGABYTE, and the only current Z490 solution in their gaming portfolio to feature the ITX form factor.
Specifications and Marketing
Running through the specifications, the AORUS is built on the Intel Z490 platform supporting 10th gen Intel processors that include Core series along with Pentium and Celeron.
Support for memory starts with JEDEC DDR4 2133 through 2933, from there we push into what is technically overclocking with DDR4 3000 through 5000. The board is dual-channel capable and supports XMP with a full supported memory list available online.
The AORUS Ultra supports onboard video over DisplayPort and HDMI with a maximum resolution of 4K60, shared video memory can be adjusted from 32 to 512MB. Audio is controlled by the Realtek ALC1220 with support for DTS X Ultra and configurations from 2 channel to 7.1.
Networking connectivity for the AORUS Ultra is split between the Intel i225 2.5Gbe controller and Wi-Fi over the Intel AX201 CNVi based solution.
The storage interface includes two m.2 slots supporting 2280 form factor solutions. The slot on the front of the motherboard supports both SATA and NVMe solutions while the rear-mounted supports NVMe only.
Portable storage can be connected to any of a series of USB ports. The AORUS supports USB 2.0 through two ports on the back and four internally and USB 3.2 with four ports on the back and two internally. Gen 2 USB 3.2 is available through a single Type-C and Type-A located on the rear I/O.
The AORUS Z490i Ultra carries an MSRP of $269.99 with the warranty listed at three years.
Packaging, Accessories, and Overview
Packaging and Accessories
The Z490I Ultra offers attractive box art, an AORUS logo at the top with supporting chipset, and CPU designation bottom right.
On the back, you will find a short specification list to the left with features laid out to the right.
Accessories include a Wi-Fi antenna, SATA cables, and breakout cables for additional fans, USB, and RGB.
AORUS Z490i Ultra Overview
We have AORUS branding on both the VRM and chipset heat sinks. All three heat sinks are connected to improve heat transfer across the motherboard. To the right, we have the memory slots along with SATA and USB headers, and bottom-mounted PCIe slot. The back of the board offers a large plate for increased rigidity and cooling with the second m.2 along the bottom.
Starting with connectivity, the PCIe slot is fully shielded up to Gen 4.0 specification, and spinning the board around, we have USB 3.2 Gen 2 and Gen 1 headers. This rolls into four SATA ports and 24-pin power. Above these, we have the two memory slots fully shielded as well.
The rear I/O offers a good amount of connectivity for such a small platform. Left to right, we have the two Gen 2 supporting USB connections followed by two Gen 1 and two USB 2.0. This is split up by DP and HSMI connections and the Q-Flash button before we go into another two Gen 1 ports and the 2.5Gbe, Wi-Fi and Audio.
Cooling includes a full three-piece design complete with heat pipe connecting all three.
PCB and Circuit Analysis
Once we have the cooling removed, we get a look at the Intersil ISL69269 PWM controller front and center, while to the right, we have a set of four ISL99390 power stages that support 90A continuous.
Additionally, there is a Vishay SIC651 power stage at the left end for the SoC, overall a 8+1 design.
Below the CPU socket, we have the Z490 chipset along with IT8688E for hardware monitoring.
UEFI, Software and Test System
- Motherboard: AORUS Z490i Ultra (buy from Amazon)
- CPU: Intel Core i9 10900K (buy from Amazon)
- RAM: Corsair Dominator Platinum DDR4 3200MHz 2x8GB (buy from Amazon)
- Graphics: MSI RTX 2070 Super Gaming X Trio (buy from Amazon)
- Cooler: Corsair H115i RGB Pro XT (buy from Amazon)
- Case: Thermaltake Core P3 (buy from Amazon)
- OS Storage: Sabrent Rocket NVMe 1TB (buy from Amazon)
- Power Supply: Corsair RM750 (buy from Amazon)
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 (buy from Amazon)
WPrime, Cinebench, RealBench and AIDA64
WPrime, Cinebench,RealBench and AIDA64
For all testing, the Maximus XII is our baseline platform, as it serves as our LGA1200 CPU test platform too.
WPrime is a leading multi-threaded benchmark. In our setup, we will manually set the number of cores for the CPU under test, for our 10900K, 20.
WPrime came in at 2.295 for the AORUS, slightly quicker than our baseline system at 32M. Moving to 1024M, we finish at 57.63 seconds.
Cinebench is a long-standing render benchmark that has been heavily relied upon by both Intel and AMD to showcase their newest platforms during unveils. The benchmark has two tests, a single-core workload that will utilize one thread or 1T. There is also a multi-threaded test which uses all threads or nT of a tested CPU
For both single and multi-core, the AORUS brought in numbers not far behind our baseline. Single-core at 530, multi at 6397.
RealBench let the AORUS board have 28.4 in image editing, 23.5 encoding, and 36.5 for multi-tasking.
Above we have the Cache and Memory Bench from the AORUS Ultra.
Moving into CPU testing, we have 11914 for FP64 and 21747 for FP32.
Unigine and UL Benchmarks
Superposition from Unigine is a DX12 based benchmark. We test with the 720p LOW preset as this removes all but the most basic GPU loading, with all of the FPS coming from the CPU.
Superposition starts things out with an average framerate of 251FPS for the AORUS Ultra.
PCMark is a benchmark from UL and tests various workload types to represent typical workloads for a PC. Everything from video conferencing, image import, and editing, along with 3D rendering, are tested.
Overall, PCMark lands a few points back from our baseline platform at 7385. This is likely due to the CPU not holding the same level of boost clocks throughout testing.
With TimeSpy, we find the AORUS Ultra to perform slightly better than our baseline, scoring 10451 about 45 points over the Maximus.
Once again, the AORUS Ultra proves itself with Fire Strike, scoring a nice 22318 overall, nearly 250 points over the baseline.
Horizon Zero Dawn
With all of the GPU testing out of the way, we can see the AORUS Ultra doesn't sacrifice much for its small size with identical framerates to our baseline platform.
System I/O Benchmarks and Power Consumption
System I/O Benchmarks
Storage with CrystalDiskMark
Internal NVMe storage benchmarks are done with a Samsung 980 Pro as it's the highest performing single drive solution on the market. USB 3.2 benchmarks are done with the same Samsung 980 Pro and the Sabrent EC-TFNE Enclosure.
Storage performance for the AORUS Ultra rides just under our baseline system at 3550 MB/s read. Write performance is dead on at 2704 MB/s.
Testing the Gen 2 USB ports, the AORUS Ultra provides solid numbers at 1041 MB/s read and 919 MB/s write.
Networking with iPerf
Networking is tested with the ASUS RT-AX86U using the 2.5Gbe connection connected to our baseline systems 10Gbe port. We then push data from the baseline platform to the AORUS Ultra, giving us 1410 at peak for the AX201.
Power consumption at idle was slightly lower than our baseline at 129 watts, CPU load with multi-core Cinebench shows 481 watts at peak while gaming in Horizon Zero Dawn gives us 417 watts.
Overclocking, Thermals and Final Thoughts
For overclocking, I set a manual voltage of 1.35 in BIOS with the medium level of LLC available. We then push the multiplier until the motherboard doesn't boot, going back to the last known good. From there, we boot into Windows and check for stability with XTU. From there, we tune the voltage to the lowest possible to maintain that stability. For the AORUS Z490i Ultra, we found a 5GHz all-core at 1.21v to be stable.
While we use AIO cooling for the CPU, this enables us to show the heat difference easier for the VRMs. With the cooler at 26-27c, the VRM temps to the left peak at 45c.
The AORUS Z490I Ultra is a solid platform that packs a ton of features into its ITX frame. Ready for PCIe 4.0, this motherboard is perfect for those that want a solution for their compact gaming build, complete with a rear I/O that uses every mm available to pack in USB, audio, and network connectivity.
What We Like
USB Ports: Not having Thunderbolt 3 connectivity leaves huge lanes open for GIGABYTE to include a massive amount of USB ports, eight on the rear I/O alone.
Networking: The Z490I Ultra packs in Intel's latest i225 2.5Gbe controller along with their proven AX201 Wi-Fi platform for the best of both worlds.
PCIe 4.0: Rocket Lake is coming, and the AORUS Ultra will be ready.
What Could Be Better
Secure Erase in UEFI: Secure Erase is one thing that seems to be missing from the AORUS platform.
Chipset M.2 Slots: Like many other ITX platforms, the AORUS Ultra lacks a CPU attached PCIe arrangement for the NVMe drives, meaning somewhat reduced storage performance.
EasyTune: EasyTune has been a staple of the GIGABYTE platform for ages and the latest iteration, available on the support page for the AORUS Ultra, appears to be broken.
The Z490I Ultra is an overall fantastic board with no major issues to speak of. I would like to see some refinements in UEFI to add secure erase functionality, removing the need for specialized software in Windows. Additionally, EasyTune will need some work as I could not load it despite several attempts to reinstall, etc. That said, for those wanting a software solution for tuning, XTU is freely available from Intel.
The Bottom Line
The Z490I Ultra from AORUS adds a solid platform for those wanting to build small form factor gaming machines with Intel's 10th Gen Core processors.
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